The Pathfinder Roleplaying System, published by Paizo, is incredibly similar to Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 in most respects. In general, however, the player is given more options and many confusing rules have been simplified. This is an excellent system with which to introduce people to tabletop RPGs (Role-Playing Games) for the first time. This guide will take you through character creation of a first level PC (player character) step by step, and make no assumptions about previous knowledge concerning the d20 system.
All content in the Pathfinder Roleplaying System is released under the Open Gaming License. This means that it can be made freely and legally available to everyone for reference. The following website is constantly updated with all content released for the Pathfinder System, and you will find it extremely helpful during character creation and actual gaming sessions: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/. Relevant links to this site will be included throughout this guide.
Step 1: What You Need
A. The main materials you will need are a printed character sheet, a pencil, an eraser, imagination, and dice.
The default Pathfinder Character Sheet (CS) is attached to this page, and should serve you well for your first character. However, I would like to point out that numerous alternatives exist, many of which are freely available on the web. For example, I highly recommend Happy Camper's character sheets that are tailored for specific classes, which are also attached. Also note that having extra paper nearby is a necessity, as you will likely be getting treasure, characters names, and other miscellaneous info that you should write down. Finally, having extra character sheets printed is also a good idea, since they tend to get dirty and smudged over time.
B. You will need the following dice to play using the Pathfinder system: d4, 4d6, d8, d%, d12, and d20.
Pathfinder uses several different kinds of dice, each with a different number of sides. When referring to dice, you use the letter "d" followed by the number of sides on the die. For example, a standard six-sided die would be called a d6. If you are expected to roll multiple dice, there will be a number before the "d". For example, rolling four six-sided dice (or if you prefer, rolling a single six-sided die four times) would be written as 4d6, and the final result would be the total sum of the die rolls. The d% refers to two dice: one is a normal d10 referred to as the "ones," and the other is a d10 with the numbers 0-90 on it in multiples of 10, referred to as the "tens." When rolled simultaneously, these dice allow for 100 different possibilities, hence the name d%. For example, a "40" on the tens die and a "6" on the ones die give the result 46. Note that when rolling a d10, a roll of "0" is actually 10. When rolling a d%, a roll of "0" on the ones die and "00" on the tens die is actually 100.
Step 2: Decide on a Class
A. Choose your character's class and record it on the line labeled "Character Level" on the top front of your character sheet. Every character has a class, which is a set of abilities and attributes that allow the character to perform a specific role. Check with your GM (game master, also commonly called the DM or Dungeon Master) to see which classes you can choose. If in doubt, choose one of the 12 core classes, which are: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Descriptions of what these classes do can be found on the d20pfsrd website.
NOTE: The "Decide on a Class" step often refers to a "Table." This is the table on your class's webpage called "Table: (class)," where (class) is the name of your class. The only numbers you need to copy from this table are found in the first row, called "Level 1st."
B. Once you have chosen your class, visit that class's page on the d20pfsrd website and copy anything in the "Special" column to the "Special Abilities" section on the back of your character sheet. Be sure to read everything written about these abilities (there are links in the table to their descriptions).
C. Copy the entry for "Weapon & Armor Proficiencies" from below the table to your character sheet under "Special Abilites" on the back. These entries tell you what types of armor and weapons your character is familiar with. If you want to use weapons or armor that you are not proficient with, you will take some form of penalty that makes the item harder to use.
D. Find the "Class Skills" listing on your class's webpage and put a checkmark in each checkbox next to the corresponding skill name in the "Skills" table on the front right of your character sheet. Skills allow your character to perform various actions, and class skills represent those sills that your character learns most easily.
E. Copy the entry for "Skill Ranks Per Level" from directly above the table to the right of the "Skills" table on your character sheet. There is not a special place for this information, so simply enter it in the margin. The entry will be in the format "# + Int modifier," where "#" is some positive integer. This expression represents how much your skills can improve by every time your character gains enough experience to level up. Your Int modifier will be discussed in Step 4.
F. Copy the entry for "Hit Die" from above the table to above the "HP (Hitpoints)" box on the top front of your character sheet. There is not a special place for this information, so simply enter it wherever you can find room near the HP box. Your HD (Hit Die) is the die you roll every level to gain more HP (Hit Points), which are a measure of health, vitality, and durability.
G. Copy the entry for "BAB" in the table to the "Base Attack Bonus" box on the front left middle of your character sheet. Also enter this number in the "Base Attack Bonus" boxes located in the "CMB" and "CMD" sections. Your BAB is a number that represents how accurately your character can make attacks against enemies.
H. Copy the entries for "Fort Save," "Ref Save," and "Will Save" in the table to the "Saving Throws" section on the front middle of your character sheet. These numbers should be entered into the column labeled "Base Save" and in the appropriate row ("Fort Save" under "Fortitude," "Ref Save" under "Reflex," and "Will Save" under Will). Sometimes hazards or spells cast on you will require a "Saving Throw" to resist their harmful effects. A Fortitude Save is made to resist some physical hazard, such as poison or disease. A Reflex Save is made to avoid something, such as falling into a pit or to dodge a ball of fire. A Will Save is made to resist mental effects, such as mind control.
I. Find the entry for "Starting Wealth" above the table, determine your starting gold, and write it down in the "Money" section under "GP" on the back bottom left of your character sheet. The entry will tell you to roll a certain number of dice, which you then total and multiply by a number. The result is the amount of gp (gold pieces) your character starts with. Money in Pathfinder exists as cp (copper pieces), sp (silver pieces), gp (gold pieces), and pp (platinum pieces). Each denomination is worth 10 of the preceding denomination. For example, 1 pp = 10 gp = 100 sp = 1000 cp.
J. Decide whether you would rather have 1 extra hit point, or 1 extra skill point. At every level, you get to make this choice between extra survivability or extra versatility. If you choose the hit point, put a "+1" near your "Hit Die" entry from Step F. If you choose the skill point, put a "+1" near your "Skill Ranks Per Level" entry from Step E.
Step 3: Decide on a Race
A. Choose your character's race and record it on the line labeled "Race" on the top front of your character sheet. Every character has a race, which determines physical characteristics, modifies your character's ability scores, and sometimes give special abilities. Check with your GM to see which races you can choose. If in doubt, choose one of the 7 core races, which are: Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Half Elf, Half Orc, Halfling, and Human.
NOTE: Certain races are better at being certain classes than other races. This is noted in the individual race pages under the "Adventurers" section. This takes into account both general personality of the race and ability score modifiers. If you are a new player, it is a good idea to follow these suggestions.
B. Enter your character's size as "S" (small), "M" (medium), or "L" (large) in the "Size" line on the front top of your character sheet. Among the core races dwarves, elves, half elves, half orcs, and humans are "M" while gnomes and halflings are "S."
C. Copy "Defense Racial Traits," "Feat and Skill Racial Traits," "Magical Racial Traits," "Senses Racial Traits," and "Offense Racial Traits" if they exist for your race from your race's webpage to the "Special Abilities" section on the back bottom of your character sheet. There is not a special place for this information, so just put it under "Special Abilities". These represent unique adaptations and abilities of your race. As you become more familiar with your character sheet and the Pathfinder system, it is a good idea to copy this information to relevant locations on your character sheet.
D. Copy "Ability Score Racial Traits" under "Standard Racial Traits" from your race's webpage to the left of the Ability Scores section on the front top left of your character sheet. There is not a special place for this information, so just put it in the margin.
D. Copy "Base Speed" under "Standard Racial Traits" from your race's webpage to the "Base Speed" box on the front top right of your character sheet. The webpage will give the speed in feet, which you should record to the left of "FT." in the "Base Speed" box. To find your movement speed in squares, divide feet by five and write the answer to the left of "SQ." in the "Base Speed" box. Using squares instead of feet makes movement of your character easier when using a standard battlegrid.
F. If your race has a skill bonus listed under the "Feat and Skill Racial Traits" section, record this bonus in the "Misc. Mod." column of the "Skills" table in the row corresponding to that skill on the front right of your character sheet. If the bonus only applies in special circumstances, do not enter it in the "Skills" table itself. Instead, enter it in the "Conditional Modifiers" section directly below the "Skills" table.
G. Decide on your character's height, weight, and age and enter them in the "Height," "Weight," and "Age" lines on the front top of your character sheet. Average values for these attributes can be found in the "Random (Your Race) Starting Ages" and "Random (Your Race) Height and Weight" tables on your race's webpage. These tables provide dice rolls that you can use to generate random values for these attributes.
H. If you would like your character to be older than having just reached adulthood, talk to your GM. This imposes bonuses and penalties to your abilities scores, and is not recommended for beginners. Details can be found in the "Aging Effects" table under "Vital Statistics" on the Description page.
Step 4: Determine Ability Scores
Every character has six ability scores that determine physical and mental proficiency. An ability score of 10 represents the proficiency of an average person. Strength (Str) represents the physical strength of your character. Dexterity (Dex) represents how nimble and acrobatic your character is. Constitution (Con) represents how resistant your character is to injury. Intelligence (Int) represents your character's ability to think logically and remember information. Wisdom (Wis) represents your character's experience and intuition. Charisma (Cha) represents your character's confidence and social skills (and also your looks according to some GMs).
Each ability score has an "Ability Modifier" associated with it. This number will be added to dice rolls when you are playing the game. To calculate an ability score's modifier, first subtract 10 from the ability score, then divide by two and round down. If S = ability score and M = ability modifier, the formula would be: M = floor( (S-10) / 2).
A. Check with your GM about how he/she wants you to generate your ability scores, then generate six of them. The most common method involves rolling dice. You roll 4d6, ignore the die with lowest result, and add up the total of the other three. This is one ability score. The other common method is called the "Point Buy System." You can read more about generating ability scores in the "Generating Ability Scores" section of the "Ability Scores" page on the d20pfsrd.
B. Assign your six ability scores to any of your character's six abilities (each score can only be used once) and record them in the "Ability Score" column on the front top left of your character sheet, then apply any adjustments due to race (recorded in Step 3.D). When assigning scores, be sure to check with your GM about which abilities are important for your class. It is generally a good idea to put higher scores in these abilities.
C. Calculate your ability modifiers for each ability score and record them in the "Ability Modifier" Column directly to the right of the "Ability Score" column used in the previous step. If you are having trouble using the formula, here is a sample list of ability scores and their corresponding modifier: 2-3 = -4, 4-5 = -3, 6-7 = -2, 8-9 = -1, 10-11 = 0, 12-13 = +1, 14-15 = +2, 16-17 = +3, 18-19 = +4, 20-21 = +5, 22-23 = +6.
D. Enter your ability modifiers in the "Ability Mod." column of the "Skills" table. Each skill has an associated ability, which is listed between the "Total Bonus" and "Ability Mod." columns.
E. Enter your Dex Mod in the following places on the front of your character sheet: "Initiative," "AC (Armor Class)," "Reflex," and "CMD." Each of these sections has a box labeled "Dex Mod." or a column labeled "Ability Modifier."
F. Enter your Str Mod in the following places on the front of your character sheet: "CMB" and "CMD". Each of these sections has a box labeled "Strength Modifier."
G. Enter your Con Mod in the following place on the front of your character sheet: "Fortitude." Enter it in the column labeled "Ability Modifier."
H. Enter your Wis Mod in the following place on the front of your character sheet: "Will." Enter it in the column labeled "Ability Modifier."
I. Determine your character's carrying capacity and record it in the boxes directly above the "Money" section on the back of your character sheet. Carrying capacity determines how much weight your character can carry without being unable to move freely. Look in the "Carrying Capacity" table on the "Carrying Capacity" page and find the row corresponding with your Strength ability score (not modifier). Record your "Light Load," "Medium Load," and "Heavy Load" in the relevant boxes. Enter your "Heavy Load" in the "Lift Over Head" box, enter two times your "Heavy Load" in the "Lift Off Ground" box, and enter five times your "Heavy Load" in the "Drag or Push" box.
J. Determine your character's HP (Hit Points). First level characters start out with hit points based on the maximum possible roll of their hit die. In other words, if your hit die is a d6, you automatically roll a 6. Your HP is equal to your hit die plus your constitution modifier. Also add one to your HP if you chose +1 HP in Step 2.J.
Step 5: Buy Equipment
Using your starting gold (from Step 2.I) you can buy various equipment and gear to help your character in your adventures. When buying weapons and armor, be sure to keep in mind your class's "Weapon and Armor Proficiencies" from Step 2.C. You may only buy an item if you can afford it with your starting gold, or with special permission from your GM. Every time you buy an item, subtract its "Cost" from your starting gold and record the new value. Then record its name in the "Item" column of the "Gear" table on the back left of your character sheet, and its weight in the "WT." column.
A. Buy a weapon. You can buy a weapon from the "Weapons" table on the "Weapons" page of the website. If you do, enter it in an available "Weapons" area on the front bottom of your character sheet. Enter the name in the "Weapon" box, its "Critical" range in the "Critical" box, its damage "Type" in the "Type" box, and its "Range" in the "Range" box. If your size (from Step 3.B) is "S," enter "Dmg (S)" in the "Damage" box. If your size is "M," enter "Dmg (M)" in the "Damage" box.
NOTE: If you buy a weapon such as a bow that requires ammunition, be sure to buy some and record it in the "Gear" table and in the "Ammunition" box of its corresponding weapon.
B. Buy armor and/or a shield. You can buy armor and/or a shield from the "Armor and Shields" table on the "Armor and Shields" page of the website. If you do, enter it in an available row in the "AC Items" table on the back top of your character sheet. Enter the name in the first column, the "Armor/Shield Bonus" in the "Bonus" column, the type ("Light," "Medium," or "Heavy") in the "Type" column, the "Armor Check Penalty" in the "Check Penalty" column, the "Arcane Spell Failure Chance" in the "Spell Failure" column, the "Weight" in the "Weight" column, and the "Maximum Dex Bonus" in the "Properties" column.
NOTE: Sorcerers and Wizards should generally not wear armor or shields, because doing so introduces a chance for their (arcane) spells to fail. The same applies to Bards for Medium or Heavy armor (Bards can wear light armor without penalty).
C. Buy potions, scrolls, or other magic items. Most magic items are too expensive for level one characters, but certain potions or scrolls can by extremely useful. For scroll prices refer to the "Scroll Costs" table on the "Scrolls" page of the website. For potions prices refer to the "Potion Costs" table on the "Potions" page of the website. Other magic items can be found throughout the "Magic Items" pages of the website.
NOTE: In order to use a scroll, you must either have that spell on your class spell list or be trained in the "Use Magic Device" skill. See the "Activation" section on the "Scrolls" page and the "Use Magic Device" page for more details.
D. Buy other items. Certain items are very good to have on any adventure. If you have the money, consider buying the following: torches, flint and steel, rations, rope, and a bedroll. These and more items and be found on the subpages of the "Goods and Services" page.
Step 6: Assign Skills
A. Using your "Skill Ranks Per Level" from Step 2.E, add ranks to skills as you see fit by entering "1" in the "Ranks" column in the "Skills" table. Now that you know your intelligence modifier, you know how many skill ranks you have available to assign to skills. You have a number of skill ranks equal to some number plus your intelligence modifier plus one extra if you chose an extra skill point in Step 2.J plus one extra if you are a human (from Step 3.A). You may only assign one rank to any given skill. One rank in a skill increases your bonus on skill check rolls with that skill by one. In essence, adding a rank in a skill makes you more likely to succeed in tasks relating to that skill.
NOTE: When you put a rank in Craft, Perform, or Profession, you must choose a specialization as well, which you write on the line next to the skill name in the "Skills" table. For a list of Craft specializations, see the "Craft" page. For a list of Perform specializations, see the "Perform" page. For a list of Profession specializations, see the "Profession" page. You can take a specialization not listed by consulting with your GM.
B. Enter a "+3" in the "Misc. Mod." column if you put a rank in a class skill (denoted by a check in the checkbox from Step 2.D). This represents the fact that your character's class is better at certain skills than others. Thus, putting a rank in a class skill gives you a better chance of success in that skill than if you put it in a "Cross-Class Skill" (skill without a check).
NOTE: This "+3" only happens the first time you put a rank in a class skill, so at later levels you do not get an extra "+3" every time you put a rank in a class skill.
C. For each skill (row in the "Skills" table) add up the numbers in the "Ability Mod.," "Ranks," and "Misc. Mod" columns and record the total in the corresponding "Total Bonus" column.
Step 7: Finish Filling in Details
A. Select a feat. Feats allow you to improve specific aspects of your character. Every character gets one feat at first level. If you are a human (see Step 3.A), you get an extra feat at first level. Certain classes get an extra feat at first level. See the "Special" column of your class's table to check for feats. You must have the "Prerequisite" of a feat in order to take it. Record your feats in the "Feats" section on the back of your character sheet. Feats can be found on the "Feats" page.
B. Select traits. Check with your GM to find out how many traits you are allowed to select. The normal number is two. Traits are not quite as powerful as feats, but add flavor as well as improving your character. The different kinds of traits are: "Combat," "Faith," "Magic," "Social," "Race," "Regional," "Religion," "Equipment," and "Campaign." You man not choose more than one trait from each category without GM permission.
C. Total your "AC" (Armor Class). In the "AC" section on the front top left of your character sheet, starting at 10, add the numbers in the "Armor Bonus" box, the "Shied Bonus" box, the "Dex Modifier" box, the "Size Modifier" box, the "Natural Armor" box, the "Deflection Modifier" box, and the "Misc. Modifier" box and record the total in the "Total" box. AC determines how hard it is for an enemy to hit you with a weapon.
NOTE: If you are wearing armor, you may be limited in how much your Dexterity can help your AC. You should have recorded your armor's "Maximum Dex Bonus" in the "Properties" column of the "AC Items" table on the back top of your character sheet. If your Dexterity modifier is higher than this number, then record your armor's Max Dex in the "Dex Modifier" box for your AC instead. If your armor's Max Dex is higher than your Dexterity Modifier, record your Dexterity Modifier in the box as normal.
D. Find your "Touch AC". Your touch AC is your "AC" minus the "Armor Bonus" box, the "Shield Bonus" box, and the "Natural Armor" box. Touch AC is used when an attack merely has to touch your character, such as with electricity, and so armor does not help you avoid injury.
E. Find your "Flat-Footed AC". Your flat-footed AC is your "AC" minus the "Dex Modifier" box. Flat-Footed AC is used when your character is caught unawares, and so is unable to react by attempting to dodge an attack.
NOTE: Your Flat-Footed AC can never be higher than your normal AC. If your Dexterity modifier is negative, your Flat-Footed AC will be the same as your normal AC.
F. Total your "Saving Throws". In the "Saving Throws" section on the front left of your character sheet, for your "Fortitude," "Reflex," and "Will" saving throws, add the numbers in the corresponding "Base Save" box, "Ability Modifier" box, "Magic Modifier" box, "Misc Modifier" box, and "Temporary Modifier" box and record the total in the corresponding "Total" box.
G. Total your "CMB" (Combat Maneuver Bonus). In the "CMB" section on the front left of your character sheet, add the "Base Attack Bonus" box, the "Strength Modifier" box, and the "Size Modifier" box and record the total in the "Total" box. Your character's CMB represents how proficient your character is at special combat maneuvers such as grappling or tripping an opponent.
H. Total your "CMD" (Combat Maneuver Defense). In the "CMD" section on the front left of your character sheet, start at 10 and add the "Base Attack Bonus" box, the "Strength Modifier" box, the "Dexterity Modifier" box, and the "Size Modifier" box and record the total in the "Total" box. Your character's CMB represents how proficient your character is at special combat maneuvers such as grappling or tripping an opponent.
I. Calculate your attack bonuses with your weapons. For melee weapons, your "Attack Bonus" is your "Base Attack Bonus" plus your strength modifier. For ranged weapons, your "Attack Bonus" is your "Base Attack Bonus" plus your dexterity modifier. Your attack bonus improves your chances of hitting your target.
J. Calculate your damage with each weapon. For melee weapons, you add your strength modifier to the dice already entered in the "Damage" box. Two-handed melee weapons add one and a half times your strength modifier (rounded down) to the damage dice. Thrown ranged weapons also add your strength modifier to the die roll.
K. If you are wearing medium or heavy armor, record your reduced movement speed in the "With Armor" box on the top front right of your character sheet. Medium and heavy armors restrict your character's movement and reduce your character's movement speed (except for dwarves, who have a special racial trait).
L. If your are wearing armor and/or a shield, apply the sum of the armor and shield's "Armor Check Penalties" to all skills that have strength or dexterity as their associated ability modifier. The "Armor Check Penalty" is a negative number. Add it to the "Misc. Mod." column for all relevant skills and modify the skill totals accordingly.
M. Determine languages. Your character starts off knowing the languages mentioned as "Starting Languages" on your character's race page. There is also a list of "Bonus Languages" available to your character. If your intelligence modifier is positive, you gain a number of "Bonus Languages" from this list equal to your intelligence modifier. Record your "Starting Languages" and "Bonus Languages" in the "Languages" section on the front bottom right of your character sheet.
N. If your character can cast spells at first level, fill in the "Spells" section on the back top right of your character sheet. This applies to Bards, Clerics, Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards. Clerics and Wizards should not fill out the "Spells Known" column. The "Spell Save DC" for each spell level is equal to 10 plus the spell level plus your class's casting modifier (int for wizards, wis for clerics and druids, cha for bards and sorcerers). Bonus spells are also based on your class's casting ability score, and can be found using the "Ability Modifiers and Bonus Spells" table on the "Ability Scores" page.
O. Finish filling in your character's vital information on the front top of your character sheet. Decide on your character's "Alignment," "Deity," "Homeland," "Gender," "Hair," and "Eyes" and fill in the corresponding lines.
NOTE: Certain classes such as the Paladin have restrictions on what alignment they may be. These restrictions are listed under "Alignment" on your class's webpage. See the "Alignment" page for a brief overview of the alignment system. Also be aware that your alignment is more of a general guideline, and in fact some GMs outright loathe the alignment system.
P. Record the XP (experience points) needed for level 2 in the "Next Level" box on the back bottom of your character sheet and record "0" in the "Experience Points" box. Check with your GM to find out how he/she is doing experience. Some GMs do not even use the experience point system, and will simply tell you when you reach next level. If yours does use XP, find out if they use the "Slow," "Medium," or "Fast" progression on the "Character Advancement and Level-Dependent Bonuses" table on the "Character Advancement" page. Typically, XP will be awarded at the end of a gaming session. Defeating monsters, disabling traps, mediating a peace treaty, and excellent roleplaying can all earn you XP.
Step 8: Discuss Your Character With Your GM
A. It is very important that your GM approve everything about your character.
Your GM is essentially the God of your game world, since they control literally everything outside of your character's personal actions. In general, they have the last say in everything and their word is law.
B. If you have any questions, do not be afraid to ask your GM or a senior gamer in your group.
Most GMs are very approachable and will be perfectly willing to help you with whatever you need. However, please let them know that you need help BEFORE a gaming session so they have time to talk to you about it.
C. Consider writing a backstory for your character.
A backstory tells about a character's past, what their current motives are, and how they came to be in the campaign setting in the first place. GMs always appreciate a good backstory, and may even reward you with bonus experience points. In many cases, the GM will have some general background about the world you will be playing in, such as major countries, creation stories, current events, etc. If your GM has provided any Campaign Background, please do read it and see where your character can fit in to the world. You may even be able to add more to the GM's world via your character's backstory (after talking to them about it of course).
D. Ask your GM about House Rules.
Despite there being pages upon pages of rules in various rulebooks, inevitably some disputes will happen. Sometimes it can involve the Rules as Written (RAW) versus the Rules as Intended (RAI). Other times, the GM simply does not like a certain rule, or said rule does not fit well in their Campaign Setting. In other cases, gaming groups that play together frequently run in to many, many such instances and develop their own unique decisions collectively known as House Rules.
Step 9: Resources and Links
Paizo Resources - The official character sheet, errata for Player's Handbooks, and a few nice sheets for GMs.
Pathfinder DB - Contains among other things many fan-created character sheets.
Editable CS - Happy Camper's wonderful class sheets made editable in LibreOffice by yours truly.
DM Screen - Serves as a great reference for a bunch of useful information, highly recommended.
Laptopdude's PF Stuff - Lots of different Pathfinder stuff by yours truly.
Character Creation Outline - One page summary of this document by yours truly.
Character Levelling Oultine - One page summary of character levelling by yours truly.
ENWorld - Awesome D&D forums, great place to find homebrew content and ask rules questions.